Panelists talk with Vice President Mike Pence about USMCA and the importance for fair trade to keep American agriculture competitive in the global market at the Schallers’ dairy farm near Onalaska, Wisconsin.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation
Panelists talk with Vice President Mike Pence about USMCA and the importance for fair trade to keep American agriculture competitive in the global market at the Schallers’ dairy farm near Onalaska, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation

    ONALASKA, Wis. – Red, white and blue flags waved July 17 as Vice President Mike Pence made his way to John and Barb Schaller’s Morning Star Dairy outside Onalaska to talk to local farmers about the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal along with a variety of issues concerning agriculture.
    Upon his arrival, Pence toured Morning Star Dairy with the Schallers. Pence learned about their 500-cow dairy operation, and saw the milking parlor, a freestall barn, the heifer facility and the calf-raising area.

    Pence sat down for a round-table discussion with the Schallers, their son, Cameron, and several other area farmers including Todd Servais, Tony Kurtz, Karla Dummer, Kevin Hoyer and Patrick McHugh.
    “Let me say thank you,” said Pence as he began addressing those at the roundtable. “At a challenging time in the life of our nation, the American farmer came through and kept food on the table.”
    Servais, the president of the La Crosse County Farm Bureau, milks 150 cows in partnership with his brother, Jeff, on their family farm. Todd and Jeff comprise the fourth generation of their family to operate the farm, and they are hopeful the farm can continue for the fifth generation with Todd’s son and son-in-law.
    “This was a very positive meeting, and I was very honored to have the opportunity to participate,” Servais said. “We had the opportunity to express how we feel about the USMCA and to ask questions of the vice president regarding that. He was very genuine. He looked you in the eye. And, he gave straight-forward answers.”
    Servais said he believes the USMCA is a positive trade deal for dairy farmers, provided it is enforced and the rules are quickly finalized allowing for better understanding. He questioned Pence how the government plans to ensure Canada holds up its end of the bargain.
    Pence assured attendees that the Canadian government was aware the Trump administration had no intentions of giving leeway on the trade deal.
    “They know President Donald Trump means business, and he always puts agriculture first,” Pence said. “The president made it very clear what was not negotiable. We are going to level the playing field for American dairy farmers with Canada. The best way to make sure Canada holds up their end of the deal is to reelect President Donald J. Trump for four more years. He’ll hold them to it.”
    Servais said he was pleased with the vice president’s answer to his question and took to heart the importance agriculture has to the current administration.
    “The vice president was very straight-forward, saying they had been really focusing on the dairy side because they know how much the economy revolves around the agricultural economy,” Servais said. “He told us this was very important to their administration to get this all ironed out in the next six months so that if they don’t get back into office, this has the teeth to be able to stand.”
    In addition to the discussion of the USMCA, talk centered around the manufacturing sector. Often times, grains and other commodities are exported with manufactured goods for shared freight.
    Servais was pleased to hear Pence note the importance of the country’s infrastructure of barges, highways and bridges for transporting commodities and goods to their markets.
    Pence also spoke on rules and regulations, along with tax burden, as barriers to agricultural success in the country.
    “We’re going to continue to work to streamline regulation and compliance,” Pence said. “There are two ways the government can tax you, in my opinion. One, they can take your money. Two, they can tell you how to spend your money. Through regulations, they can create costs on your enterprise that get in the way of opportunity.”
    Servais said he came away with the feeling that Pence and the president himself are invested in the future of agriculture and the direction the dairy industry is taking.
    “Afterward, (Pence) came around and spoke to each of us,” Servais said. “He emphasized the importance of the family farm. And, said that is why they paid out all of the (Coronavirus Food Assistance Program) dollars and provided for the (United States Department of Agriculture) product purchases. That was to try and keep the family farms, the ones that will continue for generations.”
    The Schallers were selected to host Pence after being suggested by businessman and politician Dan Kapanke, and were taken by surprise when the campaign contacted them.
    “I thought it was a prank call at first,” John Schaller said. “They were looking for a dairy farm somewhere in the area that could host the event. I agreed for them to put me on the list, and then didn’t think much more of it until someone from the vice president’s office called a few days later and asked to come visit our farm.”
    That evening, Schaller said he received a text message saying his farm had been selected, and the next day the Secret Service, staff members from the vice president’s office and the Trump campaign arrived at the farm and began the preparation work necessary for a visit from the country’s second-in-command.
    “Fortunately this past year, we built a new milking facility, so we had a nice office for them to use as their headquarters here on the farm,” Schaller said.
    Schaller said Friday morning the Secret Service arrived at about 5:30 to begin final security checks on the farm.
    “There was a ton of them here,” he said. “They dug with forks through all the cow feed; they used bomb-sniffing dogs to go through the cow beds after we scraped,” Schaller said. “They were very good. These guys were very professional, very polite and very good to work with.”
    For the Schallers, the honor of hosting the vice president on their farm is one they will never forget.
    “I found Vice President Pence to be a very nice man, very sincere, pleasant and transparent,” Schaller said. “He’s just a real genuine, good man.”